Jeanette Cabrera couldn’t believe her good fortune. After a terrible car accident in May 2018, she was, miraculously okay. But when her painfully swollen ankles, which she attributed to the crash, still showed no signs of recovery two weeks later, she followed up with her doctor and received some startling news.
“I was in stage 4 kidney failure,” said Cabrera, now 46. “I never, ever expected to hear that.”
Diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes at the age of 23, Cabrera had been insulin-dependent for much of her life, but – as someone with an active and healthy lifestyle – she was able to keep the disease under control. After hearing the devastating prognosis, it was clear that that was no longer the case.
Cabrera went to the University of Miami Health System (UHealth) Diabetes Research Institute to visit Marco Aurelio Ladino Avellaneda, MD, her nephrologist, and Francesco Vendrame, MD, PhD, her endocrinologist. After some testing, the doctors discovered that her diabetes affected her kidneys. She was now in end-stage renal failure and her pancreatic function had drastically decreased.
They immediately referred her to the Miami Transplant Institute (MTI) for a dual-organ transplantation evaluation.
“I was physically falling apart,” said Cabrera, who was also suffering from high blood pressure, chronic anemia, uncontrollable sugar levels, diabetic retinopathy, and a host of other complications. “Everything went into overdrive once my kidneys started shutting down.”
The mother of three would quickly learn from the medical team that her only chance of survival was a kidney and pancreas transplant. Determined to avoid dialysis, Cabrera was placed on the national transplant list.
“I was so frightened,” Cabrera said. “I thought I’d probably be waiting two or three years for a donor.”
Weeks turned into months, and as the year drew to a close, Cabrera hoped her miracle would come before she would have to undergo dialysis.
Then, just days before the holidays, her Christmas miracle happened – a donor became available.
“My Christmas angel offered me the greatest gift any human being can possibly give another – a new lease on life,” Cabrera said. “I now have two new organs and will be forever grateful to my donor for his selfless generosity.”
The double transplant surgery was successfully performed at Jackson Memorial Hospital on December 16, 2018, by UHealth kidney surgeon Jose M. Figueiro, MD, and a multidisciplinary team of MTI staff and Jackson ICU nurses.
“The transplant was successfully performed due to the hard work and expertise of MTI staff members, along with the patient’s commitment to her health care,” Dr. Figueiro said. “It’s rewarding for all of us to see a young patient back to her normal life.”
Cabrera was released from the hospital in time to wake up at home on Christmas morning with her then fiancé and children.
“Always be grateful, always be generous, and always believe that no matter how hard or painful life gets, faith, hope, and love will always see you through,” Cabrera said. “If you aren’t a registered donor, please consider becoming one. It may one day give you a chance to make miracles happen for someone else.”
Cabrera is now healthier than ever and insulin-free, giving her the opportunity to do the things she loves the most: spending time with her family, enjoying her career, and playing golf.
She recently got married in an intimate beach wedding with the love of her life.